The new task for the first-year Red Devilette coach is not allowing her squad to get too caught up in the moment when it heads to second-seeded Greene County on Wednesday for a 5 p.m. showdown in the opening round of the Class AA state playoffs.
“I think they’re still, I guess the word may be surreal. Some of them still have that look like, ‘Whoa.’ I literally showed them the bracket [Monday]. There’s only 32 teams left in double-A. They still seem shocked,” Stephens said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. We started out with nine teams in the region and there’s only four still playing. So imagine that times eight? We’re just trying to get it in their heads that you’ve got a good opportunity, so take advantage of it.”
The Red Devilettes (15-9) actually punched their postseason ticket last Thursday evening behind a 56-43 quarterfinal win over Spencer in the Region 5-AA Tournament, then suffered a semifinal setback to Bremen and rebounded with a 39-36 triumph over Manchester in the third-place game on Saturday in Columbus to earn the No. 3 seed.
The Red Devilettes’ six seniors — Jacole Stephens, Whitney McClure, Lyric Maze, Trinity Strickland, Jena Lane and Sydney Boddie — were all seventh-graders the last time Bowdon was in the state playoffs, and it’s something Remonica Stephens feels is one knock that’s going against her ball club, in terms of postseason experience.
“I told them, ‘For one, there’s no expectations for y’all. Everybody is shocked that you’re there. Two, because you haven’t been there, it is a disadvantage.’ You know, understanding the whole scene,” Remonica Stephens said.
Even something as trivial as scheduling has been somewhat of an issue for the Red Devilette players to adjust to this week, assuming they would play on Tuesday and coming to find out the game got pushed back to Wednesday.
“Saturday night when we got home, the understanding was that we would play on Tuesday. But [Greene County’s] boys are hosting, too, and they want to play Wednesday. The girls were kind of like, ‘What?’ So I think that kind of was another shocking thing to them. So it’s just those little things right now that we’ve got to get in their head,” Remonica Stephens said. “For us, having to play three days last week, the physical break is actually good.”
As far as the matchup itself, the Lady Tigers (11-8) are coming off a 76-51 loss to Rabun County in the Region 8-AA championship, and Remonica Stephens said Greene County will present a physical challenge come Wednesday.
“They’re athletic, they rebound, they crash the boards and they all seem like nice-sized girls. There’s no itty-bitty girls on the floor. I mean, they’re all 5-8, 5-9. Like I told the girls, it’s going to be physical,” Remonica Stephens said. “If we can get through that and just play solid basketball, we’ll be fine.”
And for a senior class that has been craving a chance to play in the postseason, that time has finally come. Remonica Stephens said now it’s a matter of making the most of that opportunity.
“I told the seniors that you won’t have this opportunity again — no matter what you do. And I keep telling these underclassmen, you won’t have these girls again — no matter what happens. So we’re all trying to push in that right direction,” Remonica Stephens said.